Macs really ARE more expensive than Windows PCs!

41 Comments

Dell_xps_one_2That may sound like an obvious statement but the overall consensus of late is that Macs are getting closer in pricing to comparable Windows-based PCs.  That seems to be changing currently, and quite a bit according to eWeek.  Joe Wilcox was taken with how cheap both notebooks and desktops are getting on the Windows side so he did some detailed comparison shopping to see how current PC prices compare with Mac prices.  What he discovered was quite an eyeful:

Imac_2Today I contacted Stephen Baker, NPD’s vice president of industryanalysis, about computer average selling prices at retail. That HPnotebook is right on mark: ASP for retail Windows notebooks is $700.Mac laptops: $1,515. Yeah, right, they’re more than twice as much. Butthere’s more: The ASP for Mac desktops is more than $1,000 greater thanfor Windows PCs, and Mac desktop ASPs were higher in June than theywere two years ago.

Ouch!  Mac notebooks are twice as much as PC notebooks comparably equipped and Mac desktops are $1,000 more than Windows-based equivalents.  Sure Macs are nice and have many virtues but it’s awfully hard to ignore numbers like these. 

Dwight Silverman gives his take on this and points out that interestingly cheap PCs are being offered with gobs of memory compared to their Mac equivalents.  This may be something that Apple needs to address given these economics.

41 Comments

AH

I think PC’s will always give you a better system for the price (especially if you build your machine yourself). Mac’s are not high end computers they are Mid or Mid-High end machines at best. You cannot buy a professional grade graphics card in their laptops let alone the new models that are in PC laptops, and the Mac Pro does not support the top of the line graphics cards when they come out. Apple will never put the best and greatest into their machines but always keep decent specs, but marketing will always trump anything else to most people. As long as Apple markets their products well they will continue to sell at high profits compared to others (look at the iPods for instance). For the most part people by Apple for the OS it seems more than anything else. If Apple ever let others build machines for OS X Apple will die like they almost did when Motorola built better machines for less in the early days (that is what I have heard and read else where can not remember site reference).

Kyle

My (short) experience with Mac pricing is that when the new Mac models are released, they are competitively priced (equivalent spec’d models from Dell/HP/etc run about the same).

But after the Mac models have sat on the shelves for a month or two with no price change and no hardware change… well, right about now is the worst possible time to buy a Macbook. You can buy something from Dell/HP with the same specs for about $300 less.

Nate

Smart shoppers don’t pay for any of the software that you’ve suggested is required, AlfieJr.

Vista includes software similar to the iLife suite. Personally, I’ve never used any of this software on a Mac or PC, though. So, to me, it all falls into the “crapware” category.

I can’t remember a time that I’ve ever had to pay for security software. The best options I’m aware of are free.

So, I don’t know where you got this $200.00 software requirement as a cost of entry.

AlfieJr

to get meaningful price comparisons, adjustments are necessary first, assuming the hardware specs are already as close as possible (which can be a bit complicated):

– for PC’s add the costs of buying unavoidable security software and some software suite to match the Mac’s excellent bundled iLife programs. this adds up to about $200.

– some would also factor in a ‘cost’ for getting rid of all the PC bundled crapware. how much is your time worth?

and just like any consumer product, the cheapest stuff, the low-end PC’s – probably are not as rugged or dependable. if you really would not buy it for yourself, then don’t use it for a price comparison. start with the least expensive model you actually would lay out your own money for.

with these necessary adjustments, the price differential narrows a lot.

and there is another way to look at it. once you have a Mac, for a couple hundred bucks you can install Windows on it and also have an excellent PC. which is to say in essence you are getting two computers for the price of one plus.

smart shoppers take all these things into account.

GoodThings2Life

Wow, indeed. That attitude about getting a better job or two just to afford a Mac is exactly why I’ve always hated Apple and their average users. What a snob!
—————————

Anyway, to the article– I don’t think comparing a $700 low-end PC to a Mac is all that effective. Price out a system with equal specs, and the price difference diminishes greatly, although it still puts Mac on the high side most of the time.

To me, the big difference is the customization. For the same amount of money, I can customize nearly every aspect of the system and still leave myself open to upgrades later. Macs you get what you see and that’s it. It’s all about Apple’s effort to control the entire experience. That is just what they do. You either like that and comply with the “simplicity”, or you are like me and prefer the customization and options and flexibility of a PC.

I wouldn’t wish an Apple on my enemies, but if they choose it on their own because it fits a need, then more power to them.

Chris K

Everything sucks, everything breaks, and Apple probably spends more per-unit on desktops than their competitors, because their designs tend to be targeted around the entire system from the ground up, as opposed to using a simple family of motherboards in a set of cases that are incrementally upgraded.

Not to say that the Mac Pro is a specifically better system than an equivalent workstation from Dell, but Dell/HP/Lenovo/Toshiba/Acer/whoever else all tend to pull more off-the-shelf parts than Apple. Sure, they’ll all grab the same CPUs, RAM, hard drives, etc., but Apple’s more likely to pull a reference motherboard and reroute it to suit their purposes, while the major PC manufacturers will run a slightly longer cable. Neither technique is inherently better, so long as both are built to spec, but Apple’s is more expensive, while being easier to service. Dell’s approach isn’t *hard* to service, by comparison, but it’s not as easy as taking apart a similar-spec Apple system.

Both of them can fail. Both of them can overheat, burn out an AC adapter, battery, or power button. In the end, the vendor will generally replace faulty hardware, so reliability isn’t as much of an issue as repairability. Everything breaks, right?

Of course, Apple doesn’t extend this philosophy to all of their gear. The iPod would be far easier to service with a battery door. The MacBook Air would be easier to service with an additional fraction of an inch for doors, period.

Laptops are a somewhat similar story, but we should remember that no matter how well Apple is doing, they still don’t have anywhere near the volume (and therefore, the clout) that the other manufacturers have. If you want proof, just look at any x86 Mac, and think about how the move came about. PPC wasn’t a dead-end, it just wasn’t attached to a high-volume product. IBM deprioritized Apple in their supply chain when Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft came a-knocking for PPC chips in their consoles.

When you buy a boutique product, you pay boutique prices. It doesn’t matter if that boutique has stores across the country, they’re still going to charge more than the Costco down the block.

Jake

For those of you that are arguing that Macs have better build quality just speak to James. He spends so much time at the Genius Bar getting his Macbook fixed that they’ve named a counter in his honour.

Philip Stoddart

I’m not sure anyone has mentioned a fundamental differences, Macs can run OSX and Windows, PCs can’t (well not officially or legally).

I’ve had most products from most manufacturers, they will all break and fail at some point, some down to luck, some down to bad design.

It’s a choice thing, I love the design of my Mac, I also have a PC or two as well, horses for course. I do however think that Apple do the whole user experience much better than most, if not all of their competitors.

Heavyharmonies

Ack. Darned intervening posts… that was NOT directed at Kevin…

Kevin C. Tofel

There’s a feature here that’s overlooked in the analysis and that’s the user experience. There are plenty of consumer electronics devices that sound great on paper, but the user experience can make a “good on paper” device a poor one to use. I’m not going to pick sides in terms of operating systems because each has their merits, but I think that’s part of the equation, no?

James Katt

The price doesn’t really matter.

Low end PCs are pieces of junk.

Apple makes a ton of money selling higher-end PCs.

Why does Apple have to compete at the low end – where there is hardly any profit at all?

Apple doesn’t have to. It makes a ton of money as it is.

If you can’t afford a Mac, get a better job or two.
Otherwise, don’t buy it.

I’ll be happy with my Mac.

Woadan

Apple holds onto more of the sales price than do Dell, HP, or the other PC manufacturers.

When Gil Amelio was the CEO, I recall that it was suggested that they drop the price, but the execs wouldn’t buy-in on that because it meant less they would pocket on each sale.

For the price differential, Macs had better “just work”.

There is some arrogance in the Apple pricing, and while there may be some justification for that, it isn’t wholly justified.

In the end, we go with what we know and like. My first laptop was a Toshiba. They were too expensive to me when I had to replace it after my home was broken into and it was stolen (just after an HDD replacement under warranty), so I bought a desktop replacement that used the same shell as Alien was using. The motherboard died twice, so the second time, I just replaced it with an HP. I’ve used Dells at work for a decade or more, but I won’t use them at home. Ialso have a Motion LE1600 and a Samsung Q1 (the original celeron model, but with upgrades to RAM and HDD).

Woadan

Steve Spera

Nate,

“Really, I don’t care all that much though. I know what works for me. To each their own.”

I couldn’t agree more.

-Steve

Steve Spera

Telkio,

“take this from a designer, Apple takes the “less is more” plain/clean/simple approach to their designs which takes DRAMATICALLY less R&D time.”

Really…as a designer, you honestly think that creating something clean truly takes less work? As a designer you know full well the process in creating something ‘simple’ is anything but. I’m no fanboy, but I believe in giving credit where credit is due.

Also the design team at Apple is not particularly large – they keep it small to allow them to work cohesively and without a great deal of overhead. So they created a design that works and appeals to people, is functional and allows 3rd party accessory makers to build products that they are sure they can sell to new buyers. Does Apple need to reinvest the wheel every year? Nope.

I also think it fair to say that the design team has also been focused on designing a certain phone for the last few years as well.

Nate

Actually, Steve, one of the big Macbook problems (cracked casings) is alive and well today. As far as I know, this issue has never been solved, and is now spreading to the 3G iPhone.

I agree, Mac notebooks look great. However, I don’t mistake those great looks for higher quality.

Nate

The point of the reliability vs. fun argument certainly does carry weight here, because it goes hand in hand with the whole pricing/value argument.

In my experience you pay more for a Mac and it’s also less reliable. So, to me, one of the main Mac arguments is moot.

Really, I don’t care all that much though. I know what works for me. To each their own.

Dave Zatz

We own an low-end HP and a MacBook Pro. MBP was over $2k and HP was ~$600. Both surf the web equally well, which is what a large percent of people do a large percent of the time…

By the way, regarding build quality. I’m one of those guys who had a Mac power adapter catch on fire where it frayed near the mag connector thingy. Which probably evens out the touch buttons on the HP laptop failing. Both issues were resolved super efficiently by the respective vendors.

Steve Spera

bluemonq,

Yup all true. Apple doesn’t make perfect products. It’s a good thing I didn’t say they did, now isn’t it? The premise isn’t that Apple, or any manufacturer, does or does not have build problems, but the quality of their lower-end offerings. Let’s face it – you can pull up a host of bugs of any product; however, those issues you mention don’t face the MacBooks of today, which are 3rd generation now (could be 4th).

My argument is if you compare a MacBook in terms of build quality today and one of these bottom-end HPs, you quickly see and feel the difference. Walk down to a store and hold them yourself – if you find them the same, so be it.

Telkio

this article wont go much of anywhere, as the Mac Fanboys all around the world will be butthurt & line up to defend their choices in what ever illogical manner that gives them inner peace.

although the insides are the same, truth is Apple does use better materials for their casings. but do these materials justify 2x the price of a system? not even close. now the next argument will be that they put more thought into their aesthetics, but the thing is they really dont it’s all in illusion. take this from a designer, Apple takes the “less is more” plain/clean/simple approach to their designs which takes DRAMATICALLY less R&D time. i wont get into the technical reasons why, but it takes into account build structure points. Apple doesnt have to account for them like other companies do that put in curves, aerodynamics, etc.

look at the Macbook Pro for example, they have been beating that horse now for about 4/5 years & invested almost nothing into R&D besides the cooling efforts when moving upto C2D. Apple charges more simply because they can, they will charge as much as the market will allow until they are forced to drop the price.

Steve Spera

Nate,

Sorry – I put your name in the post from vs. my own (sigh). My apologies. That last comment came from Steve Spera, not Nate.

-Steve

Nate

Hi Nate,

I’m sorry that’s your experience as it’s contrary to my own. I’ve owned several models of both Macs and PCs over the years, though never any bottom-end of either platform, and the Macs have proven more reliable.

Ah the old ‘fun’ and ‘reliable’ comparison. This is a slight twist on the old ‘PCs are for work, Macs for play’ saw that’s been around forever. There isn’t really a point to discuss here – whatever floats your boat.

Now I’m not saying that Macs are better than PCs overall – that’s a normative statement that holds true for an individual based on preference vs. a positive one that can be proven. I love that we have a choice; however, I’m against hyperbole arguments that ‘they’re twice as expensive’. Let’s be fair and compare apples to apples…

BTW: Yes, I should be flogged for that pun ;-)

Pam T.

My addition to the discussion is this: Mac offers a very defined product in a few models. Windows has a much larger selection from the cheap (netbooks) to the expensive (think that HP Dragon, folks).

In order to be competitive in the Windows market, the price point has to be attractive, which usually means cutting costs until the consumers buy. Mac isn’t a “for the masses” machine, based on its price point and likes it that way.

Nothing wrong with either one. It’s just a business model.

bluemonq

Steve Spera: Stained palm rests. Overheating AC adapters; some with power cords that simply fray off. Sketchy screen backlights. Cracking case edges. Flaking exterior treatments. Metallic cases that hurt Wi-Fi reception. Should I go on? True, concerning those low prices for PCs, you get what you pay for. But Apple has been just cruising along on the strength of its reputation for a while now. And this is coming from a MacBook owner.

Lance

Comparing average selling prices between brands is useless unless they have similar product portfolios. Build quality has nothing to do with it. It comes down to the fact that Apple does not cater to the low-end market. Seen any Intel Celeron based MacBooks? No. I didn’t think so.

Personally, I do not think Apple makes better built products. I have heard experiences from both ends of the spectrum. So for build quailty, your mileage may very. However, I tend to believe they put more thought into product design than most companies.

Just my two cents…

Artsiom

>>That HP notebook is right on mark: ASP for retail Windows notebooks is $700. Mac laptops: $1,515.

Why do you think that average pc notebook equaly configured that average mac???

Nate

Steve, you’re making the same assumption that a lot of Mac addicts make, “You pay more for a Mac because it’s a better, better built product”.

To me, this argument doesn’t carry a lot of weight. I’ve owned notebooks from most of the major manufacturers, including Apple. The only ones that I’ve ever had to send in for service are the Macs, and those had to go in frequently.

Do I hate Macs? Nope. But, in my experience there’s a lot more downtime and frustration involved with owning Mac notebooks than the Hps and Dells of the world. If I’m looking for a reliable machine, I’ll take the bottom of the barrel Dell over the top of the line Mac.

If I’m looking for fun, I’ll take the Mac.

Steve Spera

I love these arguments because, while they seem relevant at face value, they ignore build quality. Let’s face it, the HP systems noted in the article are bottom of the barrel systems and the build quality shows – cheap and flimsy. HP subcontracts out their manufacture and slaps their name on it.

Paul Thurrott’s take:

“Even with nearly identical interiors, do you get what you pay for? The Macbook I have is high quality. But the HP notebook mentioned above is a piece of junk. I’d never go near the thing (and I like most HP products otherwise).”

(full article: http://community.winsupersite.com/blogs/paul/archive/2008/08/06/mac-laptops-cost-twice-as-much-as-pc-laptops.aspx )

How often in technology do things look good on paper, but disappoint when actually seen? Now if you want to compare a higher-quality laptop that HP makes against the MacBook, then we have a discussion; however, I think you’ll find that 2x price differential will quickly vanish.

Kevin C. Tofel

I’m not so sure that the disparity in RAM between the Macs and PCs has much impact. Like Linux, I can run my Mac pretty comfortably on much less RAM than I could with a comparable PC running Vista. The experience certainly becomes more positive in either case with more RAM, but I think the PCs really need the extra RAM more than the Macs. Just observation and opinion.

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